Movie Review: Cars 3, directed by Brian Fee (Four Stars)


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Movie Review: Cars 3, directed by Brian Fee

Four Stars

“Just focus on what you’re here to do.”

Better than Cars 2, though that’s a pretty low bar. Closer to the formula and feel of the original Cars. Not sure young watchers will get all the getting-older theme, but there’s plenty of action.

“Don’t fear failure. Be afraid of not having the chance; you have the chance!”

Back to the NASCAR roots of the first Cars movie, plus a little nostalgia of the good old days of the racing community. Radiator Springs and citizens featured again. (Error: in one scene Lightning turns off the headlights he doesn’t have.)

“You’ll never be faster than Storm. You can outsmart him.”

Movie Review: Born in China (Four Stars)


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Movie Review: Born in China, directed by Lu Chuan

Four Stars

Excellent cinematography. The narration was a bit too much. Much of the editing told the story without the attempts at explanation, humor or philosophy by the narrator.

I remember Disney True-Life Adventure movies sixty years ago. These are much better. Disneynature still meddles but it’s less obvious.

Movie Review: The Case for Christ, directed by Jon Gunn (Four Stars)


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Movie Review: The Case for Christ, directed by Jon Gunn

Four Stars

“There is no ‘what if’ with God.”

Better than the book, which I read and reviewed in 2003. The movie had a plot (several); the book was a set of investigations by then-atheist Lee Strobel into the truth behind Christianity. The book rests almost entirely on assertions from authority; the movie explores experience, feelings and motivation.

“You didn’t want to see [the truth].”

For what was obviously a low-budget film, Case was well-plotted and well-acted. The sub-plots add credibility and depth to Strobel’s search.

“I want whatever is next.”

Movie Review: 12 Years a Slave, directed by Steve McQueen (Four Stars)


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Movie Review: 12 Years a Slave, directed by Steve McQueen

Four Stars

“I don’t want to survive; I want to live.”

Non-fiction descriptions of the ravages of slavery on America always beat the fictionalized accounts, no matter how dramatic. Twelve Years a Slave (on which this movie is based) and The Life of Frederick Douglass: an American Slave are more vivid and hit harder than even the melodrama of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s more famous Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

“No man of conscience can take the lash to another day in and day out without doing damage to himself.”

This 2013 award-winning production of Solomon Northup’s 1840 ordeal loses none of its power for its modest budget and straight forward story telling. Brutal but realistic … unfortunately.

“Slavery is an evil that should befall none.”

Movie Review: Facing Darkness, directed by Arthur Rasco (Four Stars)


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Movie Review: Facing Darkness, directed by Arthur Rasco

Four Stars

“Faith does not keep you safe,” Dr. Kent Brantly

A Samaritan’s Purse documentary about the 2014 Ebola outbreak in Liberia and especially their staff who caught it. SP and Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) were the only international agencies, neither sponsored by a government fighting the outbreak for the longest time.

“We don’t flee the fire; we run toward the fire. Jesus didn’t run away,” Franklin Graham

Popular response to this one-night showing was so good, that an encore showing is scheduled for April 10. Check local listings or the movie website.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son …” (John 3:16)


Movie Review: The Great Wall, directed by Yimou Zhang (Three Stars)

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Movie Review: The Great Wall, directed by Yimou Zhang

Three Stars

“What are they trying to keep out?”

A fun, fast, heroic fantasy set in a China just across the border from historic. Tempted to give it four stars simply because my expectations were so low. Beautiful cinematography. The few western characters provide non-Chinese audiences a point-of-view from which to wonder and adapt. Worthy themes: trust and loyalty beat greed.

Most violence–the movie is wall-to-wall violence–is fantastic, usually between humans and computer-generated monsters. Female characters, led by Jing Tian’s Commander Lin, are serious, competent, fighters and leaders. Lots of fanciful medieval technology: sort of ancient China-punk.

A good way to burn through a bucket of popcorn.

Movie Review: The Shack, directed by Stuart Hazeldine (Five Stars)


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Movie Review: The Shack, directed by Stuart Hazeldine

Five Stars

“She’s in a place where there is no impatience.”

Good show. Based on the book by William Paul Young, but better. (My review of the book.) Good production values. Not a big budget extravaganza, but well done. Nice nature shots. Octavia Spenser was outstanding.

“Where were you when I needed you?” “I never left you.”

Some Christians will have troubles with the plot and characterizations, but not me. It’s a movie. If it reverberates at a deeper level, so much the better. If not, enjoy it.

“Did God just call me an ‘idiot’?” “If the shoes fits …”

Worth seeing. Again.

Movie Review: La La Land (Three Stars)


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Movie Review: La La Land, written and directed by Damien Chazelle

Three Stars

“They worship everything (in Los Angeles), but love nothing.”

Fun. Well done. Amazing that Ryan Gosling and Emma Stones, apparently, can sing, dance and, in Ryan’s case, play piano. Popcorn for the heart.

“They love what other people are passionate about.”

Movie Review: Hidden Figures, written, directed and produced by Theodore Melfi, et al. (Five Stars)


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Movie Review: Hidden Figures, written, directed and produced by Theodore Melfi, et al.

Five Stars

Outstanding movie, based on real people and real events, but dramatically presented. The story about African-American women mathematicians at NASA-Langley in the 1960s. Also, of course, a story about overcoming personal and institutional prejudice.

Doesn’t sugar-coat the issues, yet isn’t silly either. Some people road buses, some sat at lunch counters, some went to work and did the job, even though they didn’t get credit–often didn’t get permission.

As much about the barriers overcome by women as those by African-Americans. The protagonists suffered the double challenge of being both.

The journey isn’t done by any means, but people who didn’t live through the 1960s have no idea how far we’ve come. We have come a long way.

Good Entertainment; good message. Go see it.

Movie Review: Rogue One, directed by Gareth Edwards (Five Stars)


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(Expanded December 17, 2016)

Movie Review: Rogue One, directed by Gareth Edwards

Five Stars

The Dirty Dozen long, long ago, in a galaxy far, far away.

Good job. Good independent story with good tie-ins to Star Wars series. Almost anything I say will be a spoiler. Don’t read any synopses.

Loved the atmospheric quality of scenes set on planetary surfaces.

Caveat: This is a combat movie. The intensity of some scenes would be inappropriate for children, even/especially those who have seen other Star Wars movies and think it’s more of the same.

Inevitably, we compare it with both The Force Awakens and the six Star Wars movies. In summary, it’s different; it’s better. For loyal Star Wars fans it has many hooks to the greater story, especially to The New Hope (Episode Four, the original movie), as it grew from a line in the opening scroll of that movie. It’s also its own movie, with its own, though related music, book ends, and tone. It’s still set in that galaxy struggling between good and evil.

Part of what make this movie and most Star Wars stories connect to viewers is that they feel real. They take the viewer into the epic struggle each of us has with his own life. They are stories of dreams, challenge, self-sacrifice and redemption. They touch something deep inside us. Something not satisfied with the flash and cynicism of most Hollywood offerings. It’s not that these stories are true, but that they resonate with the truth in each of us.